People Power?

The mantra repeated most often is that we need to return power to the people. If you don’t reflect on the idea a lot, it sounds like a good plan. But let’s reflect on it a bit, and see if it really is a good plan.

Does it mean turning power over a simple majority? Clearly this can’t be the case; if it were, then there could be no complaints about things like “gay marriage,” as the majority has already spoken within the US, and they’ve clearly spoken against the idea. Instead of acceptance of majority rule, we get a lot of cries about rights —the right to marriage in the case of gay marriage, the right to being treated like a person in the case of immigration enforcement, the right to life in the case of arguments against self-defense, and the right to privacy in all things touching sex, including abortion.

So if it’s not handing over all the power of the state to 50.01% of the voters, then what does it mean? For an answer to this, we can turn to the financial markets.

Another problem that led to the financial crisis was that, over the years, politicians and regulators determined that banks had become so good at risk management that they no longer needed to abide by consistent rules—fixed limits on borrowing, for example, so that banks could fail without leaving behind so much unpaid debt that they endangered the economy. Instead, banks could largely do what their executives wanted, as long as regulators believed, on a case-by-case basis, that they knew what they were doing. -City Journal

We can define people power, then, as this simple rule: We don’t need regulations, we just need to hand the power of doing what needs to be done to people who understand the problem, and can implement the right solution. People power, in essence, simply replaces the rule of law with the rule of people.

And what’s wrong with that? After all, if you take someone who’s highly educated in a specific problem, and you let them loose —no rules— to solve that problem, aren’t you likely to get good results? Isn’t this how business works?

Well, not quite.

The problem is that humans aren’t perfect. To put it more bluntly, humans are fallen. They aren’t just mentally imperfect, they are morally imperfect. People will intentionally do things for their own profit at the expense of others. And here is where people power falls apart. People will use power given to them to solve the problem you’ve given them to solve, but they will always solve the problem in a way that benefits them.

The difference between living under law and living under people is just this: people power destroys people.

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